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Maria by Callas Movie Review

Maria by Callas Movie

Photo from the film Maria by Callas.

Title: Maria by Callas
Director: Tom Volf
Genre: Documentary

Tom Volf’s ‘Maria by Callas’ documentary is the most enthralling and powerful portrait of the 20th century opera diva. Footage of the singer intertwines with voice overs, where Callas’ letters are read by Fanny Ardant. This narrative device grants the chance to the legendary Greek American soprano, to narrate her own story for the first time, 40 years since her death, and after several sensationalistic biopics.

This film captures the frailty and strength of the theatre lady, her composed sophistication and her nuanced temperament. Super 8 films, private live recordings, rare behind-the scenes archival footage appear for the first time in color, through an extraordinary narrative that plunges viewers in the grandeur of the bel canto experience.

‘Maria by Callas,’ features footage of the friends and people who have accompanied the life journey on the exceptional opera artist, such as Aristotle Onassis, Marilyn Monroe, Alain Delon, Yves Saint-Laurent, Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Omar Sharif, Grace Kelly and Liz Taylor, among others.

This cinematic gem provides objectivity on Maria Callas’ story, thanks to the thorough research carried out by the filmmaker, to find material from the people who were close to her. Volf met with Callas’ butler and maid to get authentic accounts of the diva, who had been often misrepresented in other films. The result is overwhelming.

‘Maria by Callas’ seems to “set the record straight” on historical gossip, such as the 1958 episode in Rome when the singer, suffering from bronchitis, cancelled a performance of Norma after the first act and was accused of walking out on the president of Italy, as well as the many stars in attendance. The media circus brutally attacked her, and this exquisite film brings out the human and fallible aspect of a woman, who just as any other, would suffer heart aches and illness. Too much was expected from Maria Callas, and Tom Volf allowed her to share her version of the story.

Technical: A
Story: A+
Overall: A

Written by: Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi

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Chiara Spagnoli Gabardi, is a film critic, culture and foreign affairs reporter, screenwriter, film-maker and visual artist. She studied in a British school in Milan, graduated in Political Sciences, got her Masters in screenwriting and film production and studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute in New York and Los Angeles. Chiara’s “Material Puns” use wordplay to weld the title of the painting with the materials placed on canvas, through an ironic reinterpretation of Pop-Art, Dadaism and Ready Made. She exhibited her artwork in Milan, Rome, Venice, London, Oxford, Paris and Manhattan. Chiara works as a reporter for online, print, radio and television and also as a film festival PR/publicist. As a bi-lingual journalist (English and Italian), who is also fluent in French and Spanish, she is a member of the Foreign Press Association in New York, the Women Film Critics Circle in New York, the Italian Association of Journalists in Milan and the Federation of Film Critics of Europe and the Mediterranean. Chiara is also a Professor of Phenomenology of Contemporary Arts at IED University in Milan.

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